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Lisboa Menina e Moça

Still reeling from separating from my husband and a subsequent doomed love affair, I needed a break so I went to Lisbon for my first trip away completely alone, to take my independence and newly found language skills on the road!

My main concern was that I would be lonely on my weekend away, so I googled the best hostel for solo travellers and found the amazing Travellers House – really funky, quite cheap with loads of things going on to encourage you to meet people. It was really easy to make friends so loneliness was not an option!

A student, Gonçalo, took us out to the Alfama area – which a really pretty area, a complete maze of cobbled streets and narrow alleyways, designed in Moorish times to keep out invaders. He gave us a short tour of some of the historical sites – telling us quite a funny story about one of the churches that is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Portugal – and finding things and lost people – apparently a tradition for Portuguese and Brazilian women who want to find a new husband is to take a small statue of St. Antonio and torture him upside down in a glass of water demanding that he finds them a new husband. This caused a lot of giggling between myself and a friend I had made in the hostel – another woman, my age, going through divorce too!

We were taken to several tascas – small family run cafes to try various sweet delicious liquors (almond liqueur with lemon juice and sugar, and cherry liqueur YUM YUM!), then up to the viewing point to share a bottle of Moscatel wine before heading off to a Fado show.

The place was a tiny little tasca and had around 10 benches where we all crammed in – so close you could touch the performers – there were some real characters singing – including a man with a huge personality – we were told that during the day he runs a mobile fish shop, at night he runs an ‘adult entertainment’ club, and in his spare time he sings fado – but the band always complain that they have to change the tempo to keep in time with him!

My favourite song, about Lisbon:

The hostel was in a great location on the Rua Augusta which has a huge archway and cobbled square at the end with views of the River Tejo and I spent a lot of time there watching the sunsets. The Rua Augusta is beautiful and was full of various street performers – including an African Steel Drum band with dancers and a fire-eater who also contorted his body through a tennis racket.

Every morning I took my coffee to the tiny little balcony (whilst the wonderful women in the kitchen cooked me pancakes!) and watched everyone walking by and laughed at the guy blowing bubbles up towards me.

I have a wonderful souvenir from my Lisbon trip – an incredibly white shirt from Chez Chemise – shirts made in Portugal. At the time I was living in a borrowed campervan in the forest on somebody elses land…so it was laughable that I would even consider buying such a bright white shirt. However, I spent 3 days walking past the shop lusting after it, so on the last day I checked my budget, tried it on – and had an amazing chat, all in Portuguese with the shop assistant (a very proud moment!) and embraced my new look!

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It was a great few days to practice my language skills. All went fine in cafes and shops, and even swearing at a drunk guy who bashed into me on the street – but I got a bit tongue tied with a very good looking guy who was trying to explain directions and opening times of museums to me! A bit embarrassing and I didn’t quite manage to find where he was talking about.

However, I did manage to find my way to the massive ‘feira da ladra’ (flea market) which had tons of things to buy, lots of things from dead people’s houses, my friend even found a stall selling false teeth! I didn’t find anything as strange as that, but I did find a woman selling very nice hand made hats and bags (can you tell I was on a wardrobe growing mission?!).

My idea of fun is to have the freedom to see what happens so Lisbon was perfect for this as you can walk around, or hop on and off trams and find something interesting around every corner. I spent a nice couple of hours in a cafe which used to be Fernando Pessoa’s old house – (Portuguese poet), and so many other lovely little spots to sit, drink a coffee, listen to music and generally be at peace with life.

If you’re interested in staying in Lisbon (and you should because there is far more there than I could possibly describe in one little blog post), the Pure Portugal Holidays website has some fantastic apartments in excellent locations to rent:

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  • Studio Fixie – a cute newly renovated studio just off São Paulo.
  • Gravity – Impressive 1 bedroom apartment overlooking the tram tracks of the Ascensor da Bica.
  • Fearless Frango – Fantastic 2 bedroom apartment in the colourful, comfortable, chaotic, central Alfama district of Lisbon.

 

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